Beyond the Classroom: A New Digital Education for Young Australians in the 21st Century

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Beyond the Classroom: A New Digital Education for Young Australians in the 21st Century
Beyond the Classroom:
 A New Digital Education for
Young Australians in the 21st
Beyond the Classroom: A New Digital Education for Young Australians in the 21st Century
Chair’s preface

Executive summary

1. Background

2. Australian education policy reform context
2.1 Council of Australian Governments
2.2 The Australian Government’s education agenda
       2.2.1 The Digital Education Revolution
       2.2.2 The National Digital Economy Strategy
       2.2.3 The National Plan for School Improvement
       2.2.4 Australia in the Asian Century
2.3 Achievements to date
       2.3.1 Infrastructure
       2.3.2 Learning and teaching resources
       2.3.3 Teacher capability
       2.3.4 Leadership
       2.3.5 Private sector partnerships

3. Change and innovation in teaching and learning
3.1 The need
3.2 The nature of schooling

4. Issues, gaps and opportunities
4.1 Improved learning outcomes from high quality learning environments
       4.1.1 Principles of quality learning environments
       Principle 1. There is a direct relationship between what students learn and how they learn
       Principle 2. Developments in personalising learning make it possible for every student to learn
       Principle 3. All learning should be student centred
4.2 Embedding innovation in learning
4.3 Strengthened partnerships
4.4 Opportunity to leverage the technology base
       4.4.1 A conceptual framework
       4.4.2 New approaches for learning
       4.4.3 Communities of innovation in learning
       4.4.4 Capacity building through partnerships
Beyond the Classroom: A New Digital Education for Young Australians in the 21st Century
5. The road ahead: a tipping-point strategy
5.1 Components of the strategy
5.2 Initiatives
5.3 What will success look like?
5.4 Criteria for success
5.5 Indicators of success

6. Conclusion

Attachment A. Proposed Project 1—Building 21st Century Skills in a Global Environment
Attachment B. Proposed Project 2—National Virtual Languages Space

Appendix 1. Membership of the Digital Education Advisory Group
Appendix 2. Panel of Australian Experts on Learning


Beyond the Classroom: A New Digital Education for Young Australians in the 21st Century
Chair’s Preface

Most parents I know have a Facebook account for the sole purpose of keeping in touch with
their children.

Australia’s young people are among the 1.2 billion (and growing) Facebook users
worldwide. A quarter of those users are aged under ten1 despite the minimum age
requirement of 13 years.

They are among the more than 500 million Twitter users who send 190 million tweets per

It is no secret that using social media and digital technology, our children send and receive
information in radically different ways to previous generations. The old industrial, “stand
and deliver” model of education is long gone.

The walls of the classroom and the home have been expanded by social media, the cloud,
wikis, podcasts, video-conferencing etc. These are new learning environments and they are
local, national and global and populated by whole communities in addition to family,
teachers and friends.

Of course, our understanding of the changes to education brought by digital technology is,
in itself, not new.

Over the last couple of decades it has been recognised that as educators, parents and
community leaders we have a responsibility to ensure that we provide educational
opportunities to our children which build on and extend the ways in which they learn and

The challenge for us is to embrace, and respond to, not just the technology, but the
extraordinary pace of change. We can’t underestimate how rapidly things are changing and
we need to make sure no opportunity passes us by to improve learning outcomes.

Most importantly, we need a system that caters for differences between learners: those who
are racing ahead with new technology and those who are racing to keep up with it; those
who have a passion for particular areas; those who are engaged with learning, and those we
need to halt disengagement.

We need to harness the transformative potential of digital technology to support new
approaches to innovative learning centred around the development of 21st Century
Learning skills. These include creativity and innovation; critical thinking, problem solving,
decision making; life-long learning; collaboration and communication; ICT literacy;
consciousness of being a local and global citizen; and personal and social responsibility.
This report focuses on the use of new technologies to support development of those skills -
skills that will endure as technology races on.

The Government is to be congratulated for commissioning this work to deliver a blueprint
for a new digital education for the 21st Century and beyond.

2   Ibid.

Executive summary

Over the past decade Australian governments have invested extensively in digital education,
highlighting the growing link between technology and economic prosperity.

The drive to transform teaching and learning through digital education has been supported by the
$2.1 billion Digital Education Revolution (DER). Officially launched in 2008, this landmark initiative
impacts every aspect of education—from teacher training to school infrastructure, curriculum
design, assessment and community engagement.

As well as providing computers for Australian schools, the DER is delivering digital learning
resources, online diagnostic tools and professional development for teachers to support the new
Australian Curriculum.

Four years on, the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN), combined with a new
generation of mobile and personal computing devices, is opening new frontiers in digital education.

To ensure Australia continues to build on the foundations of the DER, the Hon Peter Garrett AM MP,
Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth established an expert advisory group, the
Digital Education Advisory Group (DEAG).

Chaired by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Teaching, Learning and Equity) at the University of
Technology Sydney, Professor Shirley Alexander, the Advisory Group was asked to assess the
achievements in digital education to date, identify what remains to be achieved, establish new
priorities and develop a strategy for future developments.

Key messages and recommendations

Achieving enhanced education outcomes in Australian schools is increasingly linked to the pace of
digital education uptake. Investment in digital education is helping to reshape how students learn
and even what they learn through powerful 21st Century tools. Schools must be encouraged to see
the opportunities that such tools provide to support improving learning and teaching.

The Advisory Group identified key areas that need to be addressed via a multi-pronged strategy. The
strategy should build on the foundations of the DER and be designed to address systematic
challenges facing learners and educators, e.g., the challenges of the so-called ‘wicked problems’
(poverty, resource shortages, and climate change) as well as equity issues as identified in the PISA
2009 cycle.

The Recommendations developed by the Advisory Group reflect the report’s 10 key findings. The
key findings are as follows:

      the 2008 Melbourne Declaration should continue to drive investment in education

      government investment in digital education has achieved widespread change in the
       experience and content of learning for many students

      rapid uptake of smart devices, combined with declining cost support the move to a ‘bring
       your own device’ environment

      pedagogy must drive innovation in digital education

      creating new learning environments demands a systems approach including building
       teacher capacity and new curriculum design

      digital technologies should be utilised to enhance social inclusion and facilitate student-
       centred learning
   the private sector has an important role to play in the future of digital education

      the most effective public-private partnerships in education are those that share risk and

      digital learning is most successful when it combines formal and informal learning

      while the level of change required in schools is significant, it is best supported in the short to
       medium term by changing the emphasis of existing curricula and assessment.

The new digital education environment will look and function very differently. In addition to
classroom teaching, staff will develop new ways of teaching that embrace digital education, and
‘bring your own device’ learning models will be integrated into the learning environment. Strong
leadership in schools will be needed to support this new environment, to increase teacher capacity
and to support the uptake of digital education in schools.

Learning will extend beyond the school to encompass the home, parents and experts located in
industry, universities and elsewhere. Social media tools will be increasingly deployed to enrich and
extend learning experiences.

To maximise the benefits from digital education, school learning and teaching plans must reflect the
nature of digital learning and teaching and reach out to partners in industry and the broader
community. Public-private partnerships in education can help make learning more relevant and
authentic by involving the community, local businesses and other education sectors. By working
with external experts, learners and their teachers can start to see where their learning relates more
clearly to their lives and their community, and hence become more motivated and engaged.

Supporting the new Australian Curriculum

At the curriculum level, the creation of digital resources to support the Australian Curriculum will
complement the development of new infrastructure in schools such as cloud computing. As the pace
of technological change accelerates, Australia needs a strategy to embed systemic and holistic
cultural change in our expectations of schools, teachers and learners.

Capacity building, teamwork and contemporary pedagogy are powerful drivers of 21st century
learning and teaching. The Advisory Group believes these drivers form a tipping point strategy to
drive change that will transform schooling and shape our future.

When it comes to building on the achievements of the DER, it is important that future initiatives
support and drive the new Australian Curriculum.

The foundations have already been laid. The National Digital Learning Resources Network (NDLRN)
is a collection of over 15,000 digital learning resources including datasets, still and moving images,
audio files, assessment items and the like. These resources are directly linked to the Australian
Curriculum and accessed either through the online digital curriculum portal Scootle, the national
learning environment, or through individual education jurisdictions’ websites.

In addition, the development by ESA of a digital language learning space to support the teaching of
Mandarin Chinese is currently underway. This new learning space will be a test bed for innovation
in the teaching of languages in Australia. The Advisory Group proposes the piloting of a language
learning space (Attachment B of the Report), to further expand digital language learning.

Recommendation 1
 It is recommended that government funding be targeted at the shared procurement,
 development and distribution of digital resources to support the Australian Curriculum, giving
 priority to resources that support students’ development of 21st century skills and teachers’
 use of knowledge-building learning strategies with particular focus on inquiry-based learning
 and design thinking.

Moving to a ‘bring your own device’ learning environment

Government investments on infrastructure, learning resources, teacher capability and leadership to
date have achieved high levels of access to digital technology in the classroom and significantly
improved learning experiences for many students. Access to interactive, online resources,
assessments and lessons has been improved. Teachers have benefited from enhanced exposure to
the innovative use of digital technology in the classroom.

The NBN rollout will both speed and embed these changes. By making connectivity more affordable,
the NBN is enabling a host of technological enhancements in learning. Rapid uptake of smart devices,
meanwhile, is reshaping the way we learn to make it more mobile, global and on-demand.

In the very near future it is expected that many students will own a personal smart device. The rapid
uptake of smart devices gives rise to a ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) environment within schools.

 Recommendation 2
 It is recommended that:
        students and teachers have access to smart devices, where possible, capable of
         connection to the internet, and

        future infrastructure be targeted to support disadvantaged students in and outside
         school, enabling broadband access to the internet and fast wireless connectivity.

Improving learning through enhanced interoperability

A sound knowledge base is vital to achieving change and innovation in learning. This requires data
about every student’s performance and progress to provide the evidence base for future planning
and development. Meaningful data is a precursor to adaptive learning in which teachers respond to
learners in a more personalised and agile way. This model of learning has significant potential to
improve learning outcomes for all students.

New information technologies make it easy to gather, analyse, distribute and share individual,
school and system-based performance data, moving us closer to the ideal of individualised or
personalised learning for every student.

 Recommendation 3
 It is recommended that governments ensure the use of interoperable approaches across the
 education sector to ensure student learning programs can be targeted, shared and
 individualised through the use of both student data and digital content.

Strengthening partnerships in education

There is an important role for public-private partnerships in digital education. These partnerships
can take many forms, from supplying vital IT infrastructure to curriculum design and development
of resources to support students and teachers.

Partnering with groups or individuals can make learning more relevant and authentic, which in turn
can result in more motivated learners. Partnerships that link schools to universities, cultural
institutes or industry can bring innovative research closer and give learners access to expertise or
information that might not otherwise be available.

Governments and schools should be encouraged to develop partnerships with cultural, non-profit
and commercial organisations nationally and internationally to support the delivery of digital
education. This will, in turn, accelerate the uptake of digital education and provide students with
21st century skills, particularly in remote and rural areas, and to disadvantaged students.

The untapped resources of the broader community including parents, grandparents and the older
community can also be incorporated into school communities with great effect.

    Recommendation 4
    It is recommended that governments and partners develop and put into operation a range of
    models for partnerships, particularly those involving industry and the private sector, to
    disseminate successful uses of digital technologies in education.

New approaches for learning

To support learners’ development of 21st century skills as reflected in the general capabilities of the
Australian Curriculum3, we need to create and sustain knowledge-building environments. New
technologies such as smart devices (e.g., tablets and smart phones) and personal learning
environments can be used in conjunction with contemporary knowledge building strategies, leading
to greater innovation in learning.

To support new ways of learning, students need access to appropriate resources and assessment
that allows them to demonstrate skills such as reasoning, problem solving and designing.

Teachers will need development and support to deliver these new ways of learning. Enhancing
teacher capability is key to accelerating successful digital education in schools.

The Advisory Group proposes a project (Attachment A of the Report)—Building 21st century skills
in a global environment—which would provide the way forward to extend the Assessment and
Teaching of 21st Century Skills (ACT21S) initiative and provide a platform for the large-scale
adoption of contemporary, knowledge building learning strategies.

    Recommendation 5
    It is recommended that existing efforts to build teacher capacity and enhance school
    leadership be extended and accelerated as a matter of priority, and that teacher education
    policies, programs and practices incorporate knowledge gained from OECD countries that
    achieve high quality/high equity results.


Encouraging school learning and teaching plans

It is important to recognise that schools are at different stages in their development of digital
capacity and hence have different needs. Accordingly, each school’s learning and teaching plan must
demonstrate how they will increase the capacity to support students’ learning of 21st century skills;
support leadership of contemporary pedagogies; build teacher capabilities; connect learning beyond
the school and sector; broaden student assessment and reporting; and, improve the provision,
accessibility and management of teaching and learning resources.

The development of individual plans by schools would provide a structured framework to
accelerate the uptake of digital education in schools. The plans could include procedures for
collection, analysis and exchange of student data and digital content, and include the schools polices
and processes it has or will have in place addressing risk assessment, cyber safety, responsibilities
and accountability.

 Recommendation 6
 It is recommended that schools be encouraged to develop school learning and teaching plans
 to increase their capacity to:
        support students’ learning of 21st century skills
        support leadership of contemporary pedagogies
        build teacher capacity through professional learning
        connect learning beyond the school
        improve student assessment and reporting
        improve the provision, accessibility, and management of teaching and learning

Embedding innovation in learning

Although much has been done already, there is an urgent need to move to a more systematic
approach. This necessitates both a large-scale bottom-up approach from education (in particular,
individual schools) combined with a top-down approach from governments (e.g. resources, staff
support and policies).

Combining top-down and bottom-up drivers of digital education in schools will enable teachers,
principals and schools to move to an ‘anywhere, anytime’ approach to learning. For learners, this
offers the best opportunity to achieve high quality outcomes.

The move to a systematic innovation-based approach to digital education will lead to enhanced
public-private partnerships and closer engagement of families and communities in this new learning

 Recommendation 7
 It is recommended that governments support systematic innovation to encourage practices
 such as:
        teachers managing, assessing and improving individual and group outcomes through
         teamwork and learning communities

        developing community and industry partnerships

   managed use of social media tools for learning and teaching

        negotiating relationships with universities, TAFE colleges and professional

        providing learning opportunities for community members in the use of digital

Strategies for capacity building

The true legacy of the digital education revolution is its ubiquity. In the future, digital learning will
be indistinguishable from traditional learning modalities. We must, therefore, support and enable
the whole community to build on the achievements of the digital education revolution.

The internet and digital technology are democratising content, enabling individuals to do many
things that were once brokered by third parties (or not available at all). Learners can now research,
communicate, transact, connect with others, measure impacts, analyse data and build intelligence,
with just the click of a mouse. Skills that once took years or months to acquire can be learned in a
fraction of that time.

Our challenge is to enable students and the broader community to build on these skills—and extend
their capacity to innovate through digital education. Teachers, too, need the capacity to design and
implement new ways of learning and should be supported in the development of innovative
teaching practices underpinned by digital technology.

Schools must forge new relationships outside their boundaries and find new ways of delivering
digital education, and governments have an important role supporting communities through
information and programs for parents and the broader community to gain digital skills to better
assist student education.

Students need to be supported to engage in digital education outside school, and for cultural
organisations, artists, authors, scientists, not-for-profits, industry and universities to work with
schools to enable learning without boundaries.

 Recommendation 8
 It is recommended that governments develop and disseminate strategies to engage and
 support the whole community in digital education, including:
        information, programs and support for parents to gain digital skills to better assist
         their children’s education

        support for students to engage in digital education outside school

        support for cultural organisations, artists, authors, scientists, not-for-profits, industry
         and universities to work with schools.

1. Background

Over the past decade Australian governments have invested significantly in digital education,
creating a strong base in terms of technological infrastructure, digital resources and support for
teachers’ practice. At the same time, the Digital Education Revolution (DER) initiative4 has fostered
school leadership in the use of digital technology.

The challenge now facing schools is to build on this capacity, leveraging further improvements by
shifting the focus away from the acquisition of new technologies to the use of these new tools as
enablers of innovative, challenging and engaging ways of learning and teaching. By moving to the
next stage, schools will equip learners and teachers to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing

The Australian Government recognises the need to build on the DER to take the Australian
education sector through the 21st century and beyond. To this end the Hon Peter Garrett AM MP,
Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth, established the Digital Education
Advisory Group (DEAG) in July 2011.

DEAG is a group of digital education experts (see Appendix 1) from the fields of education,
government, academia and industry. Their task was to assess the achievements in digital education
to date, identify what remains to be achieved, establish new priorities and develop a strategy for
future developments, including ways of achieving high quality, contemporary learning outcomes
from existing investments in digital education.

In writing this report DEAG has examined a wide range of initiatives and research from Australia
and around the world. The Advisory Group has taken into consideration outcomes from government
initiatives and published data to form a view of how Australian digital education is positioned in
relation to global trends, Australian policy direction and community aspirations. This analysis,
together with input and advice on high quality learning outcomes provided by a Panel of Australian
Experts on Learning (see Appendix 2), helped shape the recommendations.

Included in this final report is a list of recommendations highlighting priorities for improving
learning outcomes in the medium term, in the context of Australia’s digital economy goals for 2020.
The digital economy goals defined in the Government’s National Digital Economy Strategy5 are:

          online participation by Australian households

          online engagement by Australian businesses and not-for-profit organisations

          smart management of our environment and infrastructure

          improved health and aged care

          expanded online education

          increased teleworking

          improved online government service delivery and engagement

          greater digital engagement in regional Australia.



The report also recommends two immediate pilot projects for consideration by the Minister to
bring about these improvements. These projects were selected as they illustrate ways the
recommendations can be taken forward.

2. Australian education policy reform context

Education is the cornerstone of Australia’s success as an economically strong and socially stable
modern democracy. It is also the way in which a modern society contributes to the personal
wellbeing of its citizens and provides those members with the capacity to contribute positively
to global wellbeing.

Governments invest in, regulate and set goals for educational provision to ensure the country
has the skills, knowledge and capacity to be productive and adaptable. Investment in education
supports a way of life based on participation, fairness and sustainable growth.

2.1 Council of Australian Governments
On 5 December 2008 the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) released the Melbourne
Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (Melbourne Declaration) that connects the
goals of equity and excellence. The Melbourne Declaration commits all Australian governments to
pursuing not only equality of opportunity but also more equitable outcomes. It clearly links the
effective use of information and communications technologies (ICT) in schools with young
Australians becoming successful learners, confident and creative individuals and active and
informed citizens.
Under the National Education Agreement signed by all states and territories and the Commonwealth
in 2008, governments are pursuing a reform agenda to meet the Melbourne Declaration goals. To
this end, there are national agreements to lift Year 12 or equivalent attainment to 90 per cent by
2015, to close the gap on Indigenous disadvantage in reading, writing and numeracy and Year 12
attainment, and to achieve universal access to quality early childhood education for all children in
the year before school.

COAG’s current five key priorities for Australian education are that:

      all children are engaged in and benefiting from school

      young people are meeting basic literacy and numeracy standards, and overall levels of
       literacy and numeracy are improving

      Australian students excel by international standards

      young people make the successful transition from school to work and further study

      schooling promotes social inclusion and reduces the educational disadvantage of children,
       especially Indigenous children.

The COAG framework agreements are particularly important because they represent a consensus
about Australia’s educational direction, and the shifts and actions required of all governments to
build a national economy driven by competitive advantage, a more sustainable and liveable
Australia and a long-term strategy for economic and social participation, including for Indigenous

DEAG Finding 1             The priorities and goals of the 2008 Melbourne Declaration,
                           namely to create learning environments that foster students
                           becoming successful learners, confident and creative
                           individuals, and active and informed citizens, should
                           continue to drive investments in digital education.

2.2 The Australian Government’s education agenda
In addition to the education reform agenda delivered through COAG agreements, the Australian
Government’s investment in the DER and the National Digital Economy Strategy (NDES) is driving
accelerated change in the educational use of ICT.
2.2.1 The Digital Education Revolution
The Australian Government’s five year, $2.1 billion suite of DER initiatives has engaged all
governments and educational sectors in targeted reform, and built a strong foundation for enabling
a new, future-directed vision for education in Australia.

It forms part of a strategy for achieving the vision for the use of ICT in schools articulated in May
2008, when Ministers issued the third Joint Ministerial Statement on ICT in Australian education
and training: 2008–2011. This statement informed the Melbourne Declaration and specifically
acknowledged that ICT is ‘enabling the transformation of the curriculum and changing the way
learners and educators operate, learn and interact’.

2.2.2 The National Digital Economy Strategy
The NDES provides the strategic framework though which Australia seeks to achieve its aim of being
a world-leading digital economy by 2020. One of the eight digital economy goals is expanded online
education such that ‘by 2020, Australian schools, TAFEs, universities and higher education
institutions will have the connectivity to develop and collaborate on innovative and flexible
educational services and resources to extend online learning resources to the home and workplace;
and the facilities to offer students and learners, who cannot access courses via traditional means,
the opportunity for online virtual learning’.6

2.2.3 The National Plan for School Improvement
DEAG has also considered the National Plan for School Improvement proposed in the context of the
Australian Government’s response to the Report of the Review of Funding for Schooling chaired by
David Gonski (the Gonski Review). The Review identified three themes as directly relevant to
achieving high quality contemporary learning outcomes:

           the need for innovation in teaching and learning

           the need to build learner capacity

           reduction of the impact of disadvantage.

Of particular relevance to this report is the acknowledged need to refocus effort onto the student
and her/his outcomes, rather than just assuming the use of new digital devices will provide instant

            In response to the world becoming a more integrated, technological and global community,
            students must not only master the core skills, but also develop a capacity for problem
            solving and decision making; creative thinking; collaboration, communication and
            negotiation; and technology and innovation.7

2.2.4 Australia in the Asian Century
Finally, the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper8 released in October 2012 recognises there is
much more to be done to build Asian cultural literacy in Australia, including proficiency in Asian
languages, specifically Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, Indonesia and Japanese. Digital technologies, in

6   National Digital Economy Strategy, 2011. Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy p. 5.

7   Gonski, D, Boston, K, Greiner, K, Lawrence, C, Scales, B and Tannock, P 2001, Review of Funding for Schools, p. 33.


particular collaborative tools, can assist both in the development of cultural literacy and the
teaching of languages where there are teacher shortages. These themes and the related findings
have informed the proposed projects recommended in this report.

2.3 Achievements to date
Under the DER and other initiatives, Australian Government investment in ICT in education has
centred around four pillars:
          infrastructure

          learning resources

          teacher capability

          leadership.

In addition, state and territory governments and the non-government school sector have made
significant progress towards engaging with the reform potential of digital education through their
own investments in ICT in the classroom, teacher practice and digital content. The sections below
touch only on the achievements that are nationally supported and available, and not the many
achievements that have been, or are being, implemented locally at the school and system level.

A recent report ranks Australian students second among the 19 participating countries in relation to
digital literacy.9 This achievement confirms the value of the concentrated effort and investment of
all Australian governments over the past decade. The report also identified a number of equity
issues that need to be addressed.

2.3.1 Infrastructure
Access to computing devices and broadband connectivity is key to realising the benefits of digital
technologies in education. Prior to the DER approximately 200,000 computers were available
across all schools. Today, as a result of the DER over 957,000 computers are installed in Australian
secondary schools, and every Australian student in Years 9 to 12 has ready access to a computer
at school.

As part of this investment there has also been significant expenditure on wired and wireless
networks, power upgrades, electronic whiteboards, digital cameras, software, suitable furniture
and redesign of learning spaces. In 2008 approximately 47 per cent of Australian schools had
broadband fibre connections. Now more than 60 per cent of Australian schools now have internet
connections delivered by fibre.10 Most are capable of sustaining video links to deliver or receive
services remotely in real, or close to real time, extending their capacity into the community, the
home or other points of expertise and demand.

As the National Broadband Network (NBN) is rolled out, students will have access to similar
bandwidth capabilities at home and at school. Remote learners, teachers and principals will be
notable beneficiaries. By making connectivity more affordable, the NBN will enable virtual
classrooms and other innovative approaches, which in turn increase equity for learners and
communities who have been historically underserved.



The sustainability of these initiatives needs to be reconsidered in light of the rapid advances in
technology such as the ubiquity, proliferation and mobility of internet access devices.11 In the short
to medium term a majority of learners will have access to personal smart devices (e.g. smart phones
and tablets). This will result in a shift away from the expenditure needed to continually replace
computers in schools to the
reality of a ‘bring your own
device’ (BYOD)
environment.                          Smart devices – changing the game
Such a transformative                      Some schools are breaking traditional boundaries by using smart
change will inevitably cause               devices to reinvent the classroom for students and teachers.
conceptual challenges.
Assurances on issues such                  Portable and multifunctional, smart devices that students own for
as security of student data                their personal use are increasingly important learning tools in
                                           Australian classrooms in a BYOD environment.
will need to be addressed.
However the reality is that                For example, year 10 history students studying the Vietnam War
students' learning can and                 at a school in Hobart this year collaborated on a project which
does take place anywhere,                  included video interviews with veterans. They used their personal
and school is an essential                 devices to record interviews and then, using mobile video
part of this environment.                  applications, created video clips. These were incorporated into a
                                           joint presentation that included still images from the period
Sustaining a BYOD                          drawing on primary source documents. To consolidate and share
environment in schools                     their learning, their teacher arranged a web-conference with an
does require technical                     historian from the Australian War Memorial. The teacher
support services                           recorded the web conference and made it available for students
                                           that were away from school on the day, to review from home.
underpinned by
government commitment to
a range of interoperability,
technical and ethical
standards. But as many of
these services will be cloud
based, the technical support
costs will be shared.

An important but often                            Image Source Page:

overlooked component of
infrastructure investment
has been in the agreements
and standards needed to
provide interoperability of ICT systems. To this end, the Australian Government, together with the
states and territories, has supported the National Schools Interoperability Program (NSIP), which
also includes representatives of the Catholic and Independent school systems. NSIP also works
closely with Education Services Australia (ESA), the national education services provider owned
jointly by all education ministers.

2.3.2 Learning and teaching resources
The National Digital Learning Resource Network (NDLRN) has been developed with the support
of the Australian Government and all state and territory governments. Managed by ESA, the NDLRN
is a collection of over 15,000 digital learning resources including datasets, still and moving images,
audio files, assessment items and the like. These resources are directly linked to the Australian
Curriculum and accessed either through the online digital curriculum portal Scootle, the national
learning environment, or through individual education jurisdictions’ websites.

11   Johnson, L, Adams, S and Cummins, M, 2012. NMC Horizon Report: 2012 K-12 Edition, The New Media Consortium, Austin,

Over a third of all teachers employed in schools in Australia are registered users of Scootle and
between them have created and contributed over 220,000 learning pathways and 7,000
collaborative activities, which in turn are being used and improved upon by other teachers. The
Scootle site had over 220,000 unique visits from September 2001 to August 2012 and over 25
million page views. In the first six months of 2012 there were over 750,000 resources accessed, an
indication that the use of digital learning resources linked to the Australian Curriculum is becoming
embedded in teaching and learning in Australia.

Through DER funding the NDLRN is being expanded to provide further coverage of the subject areas
and cross-curriculum priorities of the Australian Curriculum. Of particular note is the development
by ESA of a digital language learning space to support the teaching of Mandarin Chinese. This new
learning space will be a test bed for innovation in the teaching of Asian languages in Australia. DEAG
recommends the Australian Government support the accelerated expansion of language teaching as
one of two proposed projects.

Additional steps to help future-proof the NDLRN include development of an access and identity
management system, a metadata review and a national cloud computing strategy. Cloud services
are already transforming the way learning and teaching takes place in schools. Schools can now
outsource many of the technology applications they used to manage in-house (e.g. email, learning
platforms, data storage), saving costs on technical staff and infrastructure. This enables schools to
focus on their core business of teaching and learning.

Achieving excellence and equity for all young people requires reliable data about every student’s
performance and progress. New technologies make it easy to gather, analyse, provide immediate
feedback and make available students’ performance data, moving us closer to the ideal of
individualised or personalised learning for every student. As students learn online, it is possible
to collect information about their progress and enable teachers to respond to their needs in a more
personalised way. Whilst in its infancy, the ability to provide relevant and timely feedback in the
form of adaptive learning has significant potential to improve learning outcomes for all students.

ESA’s Improve online formative assessment tool for numeracy, literacy and science has been linked
to learning resources in the NDLRN. The Australian Government has committed over $54 million
through the Online Diagnostic Tools initiative12 to deliver additional online support for teachers and

2.3.3 Teacher capability
Improving student learning outcomes requires teachers and school leaders to have a deep
understanding of the context, content and pedagogy of a rapidly increasing range of enabling
technologies. They also need to understand the interplay between these factors. For example, the
fact that technologies do not, of themselves, improve learning. Rather, it is the design of the learning
experiences, making use of particular technologies, that leads to improved learning outcomes.

To this end, governments have worked with the profession, education academics, industry and
business to further develop and embed innovative and effective pedagogic practices that integrate
digital technologies in schools across Australia.

Most teachers in Australia have expanded opportunity to improve their skills in relation to the use
of digital technologies, whether through school programs or their professional networks. Other
groups aiding the expansion of digital skills acquisition to support the Australian Curriculum online
include Principals Australia, Teacher Education Centres of Excellence and the Australian Institute of
School Leadership (AITSL), as well as the ICT Innovation Fund.


Working in consultation with the profession and supported by all Australian governments and the
non-government school sector, AITSL has developed standards, professional learning programs,
resources, illustrations of practice and a draft performance and development framework. This work
is designed to assist Australian teachers and school leaders in developing and evaluating their good
practice, and aiming for the highest levels of effectiveness in a digital environment.

Helping to drive these initiatives is the Improving Teacher Quality National Partnership (ITQNP),
a joint initiative of all Australian governments to support teachers and school leaders to reflect on
their capabilities and enhance their skills.

2.3.4 Leadership
To foster leadership at the school level, national standards have been developed for principals.
Significant support has also been provided through national, system and local professional learning.
Around the country, exemplar schools in which pedagogical change and high quality contemporary
learning outcomes are well understood and pursued, have been recognised.

Leaders in these schools are taking charge of professional learning, driving pedagogical change
and improving teaching and learning practice. They are supplementing in-school learning through
digitally focused classroom partnerships, engaging experts online for services such as speech
therapy, music coaching, supporting students with special needs and providing choices and
pathways not otherwise available to groups or individuals.

DEAG Finding 2               Government investments to date on infrastructure, learning
                             resources, teacher capability and leadership have achieved:
                                    high levels of access to digital technology in the classroom
                                    significantly improved learning experiences for many
                                    access to interactive, online resources, assessments and
                                     lesson sequences
                                    increased exposure by teachers to the innovative use of
                                     digital technology in the classroom.

DEAG Finding 3               The decline in the cost of personal devices such as smart phones
                             and tablets, combined with their rapid uptake, means that
                             student learning can now be supported anywhere, anytime.

                             This move to a 'bring your own device' (BYOD) environment will
                             require support to enable students, particularly disadvantaged
                             students, to access smart devices.

2.3.5 Private sector partnerships
In addition to the inter-government agreements through COAG and commercial outsourcing and
contractual arrangements entered into by jurisdictions and schools, important and productive
public-private partnerships have played a significant role in achieving digital education change
across Australian schools.

Through the NDLRN, ESA has facilitated a wide range of productive partnerships with cultural,
non-profit and commercial organisations, inside and outside Australia. A partnership between the
Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and ESA is developing a free, public, online education
portal that will be accessed over the NBN’s high-speed broadband connection. Once live, the portal
will link to the Australian Curriculum through the NDLRN.

In Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia, public-private partnerships have
been used to build and maintain schools (and components of schools). It remains to be tested
whether this model has wide application to digital infrastructure and services.

A number of global corporations have education partnership initiatives that extend to Australia:

      Microsoft has partnered with three state government education authorities as part of the
       company’s global Partners in Learning program.

      Cisco’s Networking Academy, which helps students prepare for entry-level ICT jobs and
       pursue additional training or education, has 140 academies in Australia.

      Pearson Learning Studio is an example of a partnership in the Higher Education sector
       through which Pearson recruits students for a selected range of courses and then uses its
       Learning Studio platform to track at-risk students and devise intervention strategies
       designed to increase retention and course completion rates.

An alternative and effective model is the Partnerships for Success program of the Graham (Polly)
Farmer Foundation. Based in Perth, the Foundation has 15 projects operating across Western
Australia, the Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales. Each project involves local
Indigenous communities, private and government partners and the Foundation working together in
partnerships to introduce and manage projects to improve the educational outcomes of Indigenous

3. Change and innovation in teaching and learning

The impetus for change and innovation in Australian schools is shifting from a reliance on top-down
external drivers such as government policy imperatives and industry practices, to a combination of
top-down and bottom-up approaches. This new model is evident in every learning space and in
interactions between teachers and learners at the school level. The combination of top-down
initiatives and school-based bottom-up activities will help ensure innovative learning and
continuous improvement.

Few would argue that change and innovation, supported by enabling technologies, are the
foundations of next generation schools. For too long, innovation has been imposed on schools, often
resulting in inertia and resistance. In a dynamic Web 2.0 world, innovation is driven by the
experiences gained from learning and teaching.13

3.1 The need
The coming together of several historical factors highlights the urgent need to engage in a step-
change in education by developing new paradigms for learning and supporting these in a systematic
way. The first, most widely acknowledged factor is the significant level of change occurring in the
world, including:
           the shift from industrial to information-based knowledge economies

           the globalisation of products, markets and companies

           changing patterns of life, including greater life expectancy

           significant advances in technologies requiring new kinds of literacy.

Each of these forces is having a significant impact on the lives of Australians, requiring us to work
in different ways, both locally and as global citizens.

A second factor is the changing nature of work. The shift towards technology-rich workplace
environments requires multidisciplinary teamwork and greater levels of innovation and creativity.
Manual labour and routine skills are increasingly being automated or sent offshore. As Prime
Minister Gillard said in a recent speech, ‘We’ve said for years, for decades, that given a choice
between competing on quality or competing on price, we’d compete on quality....’.14 Australia needs
a future workforce that is competitive on the world stage and hence greater capacity for creativity
and innovation are needed.
Thirdly, new strategies are required to tackle endemic challenges—so-called ‘wicked problems’—
such as poverty, food security, energy shortage and climate change. Existing strategies have so far
been unsuccessful, highlighting the need for new problem solving approaches and skills.

Finally, as noted above, there is an urgent need to redress equity issues identified in the PISA 2009
cycle and highlighted in the recent Gonski Review. This extends to identifying new ways of engaging
and supporting learners who experience educational disadvantage by reason of their socio-
economic status, Indigenous background, level of English language proficiency, disability and

13   See, for example, TED and the new TEDEd (, where flip technologies created and developed by
     teachers are reshaping learning experiences for all learners.

14   Gillard, J, 2012. Building a New Australian Economy Together, speech delivered at the Australia-Israel Chamber of
     Commerce, 1 February 2012, Melbourne.

These challenges require an immediate response via the development of innovative approaches
to the ways in which teaching and learning is supported and prepares students to meet them.

It is important to note, however, that new and emerging technologies such as cloud services,
quantum technologies, augmented reality and a semantic web leading to artificial intelligence, will
not of themselves carry 21st century schooling into a bright future. Rather, we are at the beginning
of a whole new set of possibilities enabled by these rapid technological developments.

The Melbourne Declaration identifies essential approaches and skills for 21st century learners in
literacy, numeracy, ICT, thinking, creativity, teamwork and communication. These are designed
to develop individuals who can manage their own wellbeing, relate well to others, make informed
decisions about their lives, become citizens who behave with ethical integrity, relate to and
communicate across cultures, work for the common good and act with responsibility at local,
regional and global levels.

The general capabilities of the Australian Curriculum encompass the knowledge, skills, behaviours
and dispositions that, together with curriculum content in each learning area and the cross-
curriculum priorities, will assist students to live and work successfully in the 21st century.

DEAG Finding 4              The development of successful learners, confident and creative
                            individuals, and active and informed citizens requires the
                            deployment of new learning paradigms. Featuring innovative
                            learning environments designed to support students'
                            development of 21st century capabilities, the new learning
                            paradigm builds capacity to:
                                   adapt to a rapidly changing world
                                   operate successfully in changing work environments
                                   work towards solving difficult, ill-defined
                                    problems/develop a proactive approach to solving
                                    ill-defined problems
                                   be creative and innovative
                                   learn and work collaboratively
                                   develop local and global citizenship responsibilities
                                   create and publish content.
                            The adoption of new pedagogies to transform practice at scale
                            requires connections between pedagogy and technology,
                            underpinned by knowledge of how to bring about change.

3.2 The nature of schooling
After remaining largely unchanged for more than 50 years, the nature of schooling in Australia has
only recently begun to be transformed. Under the industrial model of schooling, students enrolled
in a formal system in which they:
      engage with a curriculum determined by state (and more recently national) authorities

      are taught by a single teacher who was the major source of the content of learning and who
       had the professional freedom to determine how best to organise learning

      are grouped into classes according to their age

      learn an age-appropriate curriculum divided into discrete subjects.
This system worked well during a time in which there was a great deal of stability and confidence
about the knowledge and skills students needed to learn to equip them for life. It also worked well
for students whose particular interests, talents and development were roughly similar to others of
their age group, and for those who were allocated experienced and knowledgeable teachers.

The triggers for the significant changes to schooling now being witnessed began almost 20 years ago
when the internet became available to those who could afford connections. Around the same time,
the price of personal connected devices (computers, laptops, tablets and more recently smart
phones) began to decline sharply, making individual devices affordable for many and paving the
way for a BYOD environment.

The combination of these two developments has resulted in new learning opportunities. Much of
the content of learning is now accessible from a rich range of sources globally in a variety of media.
These resources can be used at a time and place of the learner’s choosing. Thus learning
opportunities are becoming available inside and outside the formal classroom. These developments
have led to an important shift in the nature and purpose of teaching and learning—from content
delivery to building student capacity.

Educational research has highlighted ways of providing a more individualised and personalised
learning experience for students within a single classroom. There is research evidence to show
there is little or no effect in student learning outcomes when students are grouped across multiple
ages15, e.g., making it possible for students to learn in groups where there is common interest in a
particular phenomena, rather than the same chronological age. Research has reported the
identification of multiple levels of development within a single classroom as more useful than
normative grades.16 This identification of multiple levels of reading competency means that teaching
and learning strategies can be deployed which acknowledge these differences, rather than the same
strategy for every student.

While there are moves toward more ‘integrated studies’—e.g., breaking down divisions between
subjects—these changes are not systematic or widespread. Consequently, more needs to be done to
achieve the step-change in digital education required to deliver 21st century capabilities to all
young Australians.

15   Hattie, J, 2009. Visible learning: a synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge, London; New

16   Griffin, P, 2007. The Comfort of Competence and the Uncertainty of Assessment. Studies in Education Evaluation in
     Memory of Arieh Lewy. Vol. 33, No. 1 pp 87-99.

4. Issues, gaps and opportunities

Four years into the Digital Education Revolution much has been achieved, and much has changed
in the way students and teachers use digital technologies. The overarching challenge now is to
maintain momentum and ensure that digital technologies are used more systematically to improve
the quality of education provision and learning outcomes for all students.

The high uptake of new digital technologies is creating changes in what students learn, as a result of
the change in how they learn. They afford new opportunities and provide different learning
experiences resulting in high quality learning outcomes.

Much has been written about what makes a difference to student learning outcomes. It is clear that
there is no single factor, but rather a system that influences quality learning outcomes. A 2009 study,
for example, identified the following factors as influencing student achievement:

           student ability (50 per cent)

           teachers (30 per cent)

           influence of parents and home (5 – 10 per cent)

           resources of the schools (5–10 per cent)

           peer effects (5 – 10 per cent).17

The systems nature of learning improvement has also been suggested in US studies of the
effectiveness of 1:1 ratio (student to computer) environments.

A 2008 US research study found that 33 per cent of 1:1 ratio school districts, reported significant
academic improvement as a result of the use of new technologies.18 Project Red, a follow up study of
nearly 1000 schools, examined those districts reporting improvement by evaluating their use of 1:1
ratio. It identified nine key factors as influencing student achievement:

           intervention classes – technology is integrated into every intervention class period

           change management leadership by principal – leaders provide time for teacher professional
            learning and collaboration at least monthly

           online collaboration – students use technology daily for online collaboration

           core subjects – technology is integrated into the core curriculum weekly or more frequently

           online formative assessments – assessments are done at least weekly

           lower student-computer ratio – lower ratios improve outcomes

           virtual field trips – with more frequent use, virtual trips are more powerful; the best schools
            do these at least monthly

           students use search engines daily

17   Hattie, J,. 2003. Teachers Make a Difference: What is the research evidence?
18   Greaves, T and Hayes, J, 2008. America’s Digital Schools, MDR, 2008.

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